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“Maintaining Product Quality Standards is Key to Growth and Sustainability of the Coconut Sector”

("The Cocommunity" - Monthly APCC Newsletter
Volume 45, Series No. 4, 1 April 2015)

Apart from major products of coconut traded on the world market that include Copra, Coconut Oil, Copra Meal and Desiccated Coconut, consumer demand is increasing rapidly for the non-traditional products of coconut such as the Virgin Coconut Oil, Coconut Water, Coconut Milk/Cream/Powder, Coconut Shell Charcoal/Activated Carbon and Coconut Fibre products to name a few.

The quality of coconut products affects consumer acceptability, prices and competitiveness. Consumers in industrialized countries are gradually imposing stringent quality standards for all products especially for human consumption including feed components for livestock. If standards are not maintained, it could mean loss of market share and tougher competition with similar products from other plant-based products.

A number of APCC member countries are developing important strategies to enhance economic viability at farm level for the benefit of coconut farmers through value addition initiatives. India has declared ‘Neera’ as a national coconut product, Fiji and Papua New Guinea along with other Pacific countries have taken steps to nationalize Virgin Coconut Oil and its by-products to focus their limited resources on developing the industry amongst smallholder farmers and the small to medium enterprises (SME). Thailand and Vietnam are focusing on niche markets for Coconut Milk/Cream/Powder, Desiccated Coconut and finer quality products from coconut oil. Coconut water exports from Brazil and Philippines are increasing by at least over 20% each year. African, Caribbean and Latin American countries are demonstrating increased interest and capacity to compete globally in most of the edible coconut products. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the East African Countries (EAC) of Kenya and Tanzania are amongst the coconut communities preparing their industry road map for inclusive growth and sustainability in the coconut sector as clearly demonstrated in the first-time National Coconut Festival held last month in Mombasa and Nairobi that was attended by APCC.

The Philippines initiated a Copra Quality Improvement Program to reduce the aflatoxin levels of copra and copra meal. The Philippine Coconut Authority initiated research projects with findings that have assisted in establishing quality standards for Virgin Coconut Oil and most edible products of coconut. A number of countries have commenced work on product quality standards for adoption through in-country regulations as in the Solomon Islands, Jamaica, Kenya and others. The APCC Secretariat in collaboration with national experts has taken the initiative to compile national quality standards of a total of 15 coconut products to date and harmonize them as APCC Quality Standards that have been published. These would be expanded over time to include most marketable products of coconut. At the very least, they can be used as a reference by processors, exporters and buyers. It is important to harmonize them with the global standards particularly for products traded worldwide.

The recently concluded International Conference on Coconut Oil held last month in Thailand was a first-time focused forum that discussed many important aspects of the health and nutritional benefits of coconut oil especially through the various papers presented by a number of medical doctors and researchers. The Conference highlighted the need to clarify and confirm a number of important quality standards beginning with Virgin Coconut Oil being the fastest growing coconut oil product of the world market. APCC is now receiving high level input from technical experts around the globe to establish a way forward that would include the clarifications, review and improvement needed for the quality standards that are currently in place.

For the growth and sustainability of the coconut sector, ‘no stone must be left unturned’ when it comes to the importance of diligently meeting international quality standards for all coconut products.

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